It has been said that the young soul siren Joss Stone is quite out of the ordinary. Spend a few hours with her and youll find that its pleasantly true. As Joss rounds the corner of 20, she has already performed and collaborated with legends that she will undoubtedly refer to one day as her peers. Her third LP Introducing Joss Stone brings the real Joss Stone back for the very first time.
In this in-depth interview, Joss discusses the theory behind her newly pink locks, her visit to New Yorks graffiti haven 5 Pointz, and her muse Raphael Saadiq. The self-managed songstress also explains her near-miss collaboration with the great Aretha Franklin and her success in having Lauryn Hill perform on her bold new record.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: The interesting thing about you as an artist, a soulful white artist, is that you were immediately classified as R&B. But when you take artists like Justin Timberlake, it took a lot more for them to achieve that Soul title as opposed to Pop. Why do you feel it was different for you?
Joss Stone: I just sang, and they really didnt get the chance to do that I guess. Maybe they were pushed into something they didnt want to do. To be honest, to define the word soul is really impossible. Theyre like, What is Soul music? and Im like, I dont know. You have to figure it out as you go along. There are so many different styles of music that I would call soulful. I dont know whether Im R&B, Rock, or Hip-Hop, Reggae, what the hell is it? Blues? I dont know. I kinda just mash it up and make it up. I mean. I love Justin Timberlake. That man is soulful. Whether hes white, pink or purple, it makes no difference.
The problem is with pigeonholing today its all made by media, and [the labels] need those pigeonholes in order to sell the albums. Its like they need to label it. Really it doesnt deserve a label because its not possible to do so. Like, Justin, I would say yeah hes poppy, but his voice is soulful. But the production, thats not classic Soul; thats not classic R&B. Every album hes had has been different, which I think is wicked. That Senorita situation f*cking loved it! I listened to every song. I thought it was brilliant. I wouldnt call [Justin] straight Pop; hes soulful. Theres nothing we can do about it. Hes sexy with it; and yes he did bring sexy back, but I think sexy was already kinda taking over the airwaves. Its really not about that, Justin honey. But I like him. Plus hes f*cking gorgeous.
[Girl talk banter ensues over the breakup between Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz and the marriage debate]
Joss: If I ever get married, it wont be legally. Why do I need to be legally bound to you for the rest of my life? If you really want to marry me, lets get married spiritually me, you, and God. I dont need no f*ckin’ contract. Its ridiculous. The whole concept of marriage has changed drastically. Its like 60% divorce now. Its sad because these people are promising God; theyre not just promising their government. And they go back on [their word]. Thats what upsets me. In sickness and in health, honey. Doesnt matter if its mental sickness or not. People can be f*ckin mentally ill and clinically insane but you promised. You swore that you would be with this man through sickness and through health ’til death do you part. Wow.
AHHA: Should’ve written their own vows.
Joss: [laugh] You gotta write your own vows. Those words are so you said em now. Theres no loophole to go through. Silly f*cks. Oh well. [laughs]
AHHA: Do you feel that new school artists who arent up on old school soul are missing out?
Joss: Yes I do think theyre missing out, but if they heard it and dislike it then, no I dont. If theyre not exposed to it, I think thats kind of unfair. So lets show them just in case they like it. Just so people have a means to hear it. Doesnt matter if they pay for it or not. Download it. People get mad when I say that, but Ill say it. If you find a way to hear music its nice if you can support because then we can keep making music. It does help, but if you cant f*ckin’ find it, grab it, take it from somewhere. Share the music, burn it. I just want the world to hear it. Thats the most important thing for me and my album.
But its not just me, its like all the other artists. All the young kids today, they never heard of Aretha Franklin or Al Green. Thats a shame. Thats why Im trying to make that change. Talk about them a lot so they can hear it. I had a little girl come up to me a while back; she was like 12. She said, Joss, I never heard of Aretha Franklin, but I heard you liked her so I got her album and now I love Aretha Franklin. Thats what I was trying to achieve. It was so cool.
AHHA: In your short time in this industry youve done about 150 things that most artists dream of doing with people they dream of collaborating with. Do you still have any dream collaborations?
Joss: Ive gotta sing with Aretha. Im trying. I called her to have her sing on this album months back. She said she would sing on this album. I got her number and left her a message. I was so scared. I said, Hi its Joss Stone. I dont know if you know me, but I met you at the Superbowl. Im in love with you as a singer. You inspire me. You really are the reason why I sing. You and Lauryn [Hill]. [Aretha] is the best singer the world has ever seen. The woman is ridiculous as a vocalist. So I said, If you want to come on my record to play, you want to sing, if you just want to breathe on my album, please come. She called me back. [laughs]
When I picked up my phone and it said Aretha Franklin calling [gasps] So I sent her the song. She heard it and calls me back. Very businesslike. Ive heard the song, and yes, I will sing it. Thats exactly how she said it. I was like, Ok what do you need? She said, I need an agreement. I go, Ok I will get you an agreement. Her lawyer would not call me back. I had the song, she liked the song, was ready to sing it. Aretha said yes. You better f*cking call me back. So I flew to Detroit and sat in his office for three hours.
AHHA: Did you really?
Joss: Yes I did. I was not having him stand in the way between me and Aretha Franklin. And my management at the time were like c*cksuckers, so they wouldnt do anything. It had been months, so I was like, Marty the guy who was my manager here is the number for the lawyer, can you please sort it out for me? I never asked him to do anything, because they dont really do anything. The man couldnt get it done. With me, Ill call everyday about seven times a day because thats how you get things done in life. If you are driven, be driven. He was a real dear about it too. Well she should be calling you back. Dont even. This is Aretha Franklin and I want her to be on my album, not the other way around. So I was like, Ok how many times did you call her? He said, Four or five. Which means two or three.
So I got on a plane in the middle of my mixing here [in New York] and it was too late. But I came back here with an agreement in my hand. I tried. I went [to his office] and was like, I know you are busy, but when you have 20 minutes come out here and chat with me. Ill be here all day. His assistant lady was like, Oh hes not in today. I was like, Thats ok, I will sit here until he comes back. He was in. I walked out for a cigarette and came back and said, Is he back? and she said, Oh yeah he just got back from a lunch break. Is there anything you want to drop off for him or a message or I was like, No I just want to see him and talk to him. She was like, You need to make an appointment. I was like, Thats ok honey Im here now. I plugged my phone in, got my magazines out, got my laptop out. He came out after two hours all rushed. I was like, Its ok I dont wanna waste your time. I just need you to give me the agreement so we can get this rolling. Since you cant talk on the phone, I thought Id come see you. He was like, You cant get mad if I dont call you back, Im busy. I was like, Honey I dont get mad, I just turn up.
The agreement was atrocious. I was like properly f*cked. I dont care. Take my house. You cant take my dogs, but you can take everything I own. Of course my lawyer was like, Youre not doing this. [Aretha] gave me some dates, but she was so busy. Shes Aretha Franklin. She was recording her own album. She had all these things she had to go to. So in the end it got so late, I had to turn in the record. I pushed it back a couple times. But you know what? Im gonna sing 100 albums, and the womans gonna be on one of them. Im not gonna let go of it. Not until the day I die. Youre gonna have to run me over with a bus before I let go of that one. One day it will happen. But I got Lauryn
AHHA: Talk about that collaboration with Lauryn Hill.
Joss: She came on my record, and just the things she said. Shes L-Boogie on it. Im talking about music on it [sings] Music, Im so in love with my music. Its like a love song. Sounds like Im talking to a bloke at the beginning but Im talking to music. I had a moment when I was writing. You know how we all go through life looking for the love of our lives and the unconditional? I dont think that exists. I realize now that unconditional love in a human being is really kind of borderline impossible to find. If I kill my sister my mum wont love me anymore. Its ok; its a little bit conditional. Even with parents. So Im driving home thinking if that unconditional exists anywhere, its in music and it exists in God. Doesnt matter how little you have, you have both of those things. So thats what the song was about.
I was like, I have to have Lauryn on it. Everyone looked at me crazy, like Girl its not gonna happen. Let it go. Im like, Yes it is. Lets be positive. I dont know what the f### I was doing. Im some 19 year old chick from Devon, England. I come over here thinking I could have Lauryn Hill on my record. Must be crazy, but then again I think I am a little crazy. I admit it, and I like being crazy. So I got [Lauryns] number. My friend Paul gave it to me. He used to tour manage me. He tour managed Lauryn for about five seconds. He gave me her email address, her number, and her mums number. Her number didnt work anymore. I sent her a long email, but I dont know I have five email addresses so I understand.
Then I called her mum. I spoke to her every day for two months. The poor woman. She just had to deal with me. I felt bad for her, I was like Hi again! Did you get an answer back? I sent the song like three times. I was like, I dont mean to be buggin’, but I cant go away until I get an answer, and I know you cant give me one right now because you dont got one, but I dont mean to be annoying. I have to do this. In the end her mum got me the person who was kind of managing Lauryn and I told him the same thing. After a few weeks he got a hold of her. She heard it, went in the studio and did it. I cried at the things that she said. She f*ckin’ killed it. I love her so much. And its just about music. These horns come in and these strings. Its real instruments man; all my drums are live.